New Office Hours: 9am-4pm

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Our office hours have changed!

Previously, our official office hours were from 9:00am – 5:00pm, but we’ve now switched to a 9:00am – 4:00pm schedule. Not to worry though, our services will still be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What does this mean?

While The Center’s in-person office hours will decrease by one hour each day, the services we provide for survivors and their loved ones will continue to operate as usual. We will still offer 24-hour support, every day of the year. If you or someone you know needs support, you may:

Additionally, our staff and volunteers may be able to meet with you outside of office hours by request. Please give us a call at 919-967-7273 to learn more about our services.

Why are we making the switch?

This change in office hours will allow our staff to have greater flexibility in their work days, encouraging balance over the course of each work week. Many of the support we offer and outreach events we attend occur in the evenings or over the weekend. The change in office hours means we can offer these after-hours opportunities more sustainably.

More questions about our change in hours?

Please contact us anytime at 919-968-4647 or

Internet Safety Tips

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Many parents speak to their children about protecting themselves from unwanted physical contact. However, it is important to consider unsafe, uncomfortable, or unwanted interactions online as well. These interactions may take the form of sexual harassment, cyberbullying, or a person asking for too much personal information or pretending to be someone that they are not. In honor of International Internet Day, here are some tips for talking to your children about internet safety.

  1. Talk to your child about internet privacy. Advise your child not to share their personal information – such as full names, parents’ names, phone numbers, addresses, schools, locations, passwords, or even pictures – with anyone online or through social media sites. Remind your child that nothing they share on the internet is ever completely private.
  1. Caution your child that while it is okay to have online friends, people are not always who they say they are. If an online friend asks to meet in person, wants to keep the friendship a secret, or asks a lot of personal questions, these are generally warning signs. Ask your child to tell you if their online friend wants to meet them in person.
  1. Encourage your child to tell you if something that is said to them or something that they see online makes them uncomfortable. Ask your child to print a picture of anything that makes them uncomfortable and show it to you in case comments or pictures are later deleted. Remind your child that if someone online says something that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset, or scared, it is not their fault and that you will support them.
  1. Talk to your child about cyberbullying. Discuss the different forms that cyberbullying can take, such as spreading rumors and posting mean comments or embarrassing photos. Advise your child to print the comments, not respond, and get offline if they are being bullied. Remind your child that it is not okay to post photos of other people online without their consent, and that if they are considering posting a comment online, they should consider whether their comment is unkind or harmful. Generally, a good rule is that if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, you shouldn’t post it online.


The bottom line: It’s important to remember that parents play a major role in keeping children safe. Talking to your kids about online safety is the number one thing that can do to prevent abuse or stop it quickly when it happens. So start conversations, and be a good role model for your child with your own online behavior. If you would like more information or would like to schedule a program about internet safety, please feel free to reach out to our Community Education director, Rachel Valentine, at or 919-968-4647.


Ellie McWilliam-Grench is our Administrative and Outreach Intern. She is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Relationship Violence Awareness Month

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It’s that time of year again. In a state that barely has real seasons, trees actually start to change color, and the temperature drops below 80 — it’s finally October. For students, that means midterms are right around the corner. For parents, it’s time to start thinking about trick or treating. For everyone in between, pumpkin-flavored delicacies emerge to spice up every meal of the day.

But let’s not forget that October also means the start of Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM)Relationship violence – sometimes referred to as intimate partner violence, dating violence, or domestic violence – is the occurrence of interpersonal violence within an intimate relationship or after the relationship has ended.

Some of you might be thinking that you’re already aware of domestic violence or that you already have a fairly good concept of what it is, but I challenge you to think more deeply about it this month. Generally, the dominant narrative is a man beating or otherwise physically hurting his wife. But in reality, relationship violence doesn’t always look the way you think it might.

We often forget that those who experience psychological or emotional abuse, sexual assault, and financial abuse all relationships — not just marriages and heterosexual relationships — are victims of domestic violence as well.

Relationship violence is based in one partner’s desire to exercise control over another partner, and that control can be realized using a variety of tactics of manipulation and abuse. These tactics often involve isolating the victim from their family and friends, working to lower their self-esteem, and coercing them to do things they don’t want to do.

Read more

5 Tips for Supporting a Survivor of Sexual Assault

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Parents, friends, and others who want to support survivors of sexual assault may not know exactly how to do so. These loved ones may feel helpless and worry about saying the wrong thing or pushing too hard when attempting to offer love and support. We share some of the best tips for supporting survivors so that you can help them feel empowered and start on the road toward healing.


  1. Accept that you will not have all of the answers or be able to fix it.

It can be especially frustrating to help a loved one who survived sexual assault, because you may feel overwhelmed and struggle with not knowing exactly how to help, even though you wish you could make things better immediately. It is important to keep in mind that just being there for the survivor can make all of the difference in the world. Your loved one does not expect you to have all of the answers, and they know that you cannot repair the damage.

However, you can listen and let them know that you care. Offer unconditional support and believe them. You respond to them in non-judgmental ways and offer support in any way that you can. Do not blame them, question them, or push them for more information. Let them know that you believe in them and will support them for as long as it takes. You also need to validate their feelings and acknowledge them in positive and empowering ways.

  1. Help them feel empowered and regain control over their life.

One of the worst effects of sexual assault is the sense of helplessness that it instills in the victim. They lose power during the assault, so it is critical for you to support their decisions and choices to help them regain a sense of control over their life. Avoid telling them what to do, but offer suggestions and options to help them make decisions that are right for them. Share resources with them for other support systems, such as counselors, sexual assault support groups, and others.

You also could suggest that they ease back into a routine that does not involve a great deal of stress by finding a job that serves a therapeutic purpose. There are many options for working at home or working with their hands that would empower them by allowing them to work as much or as little as they’d like. For example, they could set her own hours and rates by becoming a dog walker. Studies show that petting and playing with dogs reduces stress and alleviates depression and anxiety.

  1. Take a cue from the survivor themselves.

Each sexual assault survivor deals with the trauma in different ways. While some victims become depressed and struggle with getting out of bed, others do not view it as a catastrophe. You need to validate their feelings, acknowledge their pain, and follow their lead. Try not to let them live in denial or minimize the assault, but do not make it an earth-shattering experience if they do not view it as such. You need to pay particular attention to their attitude while avoiding making assumptions that you know how they feel or dictating how they should feel.

  1. Be aware of the warning signs of suicide.

It is important for loved ones of sexual assault victims to understand the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors: Rape victims are four times more likely to contemplate suicide after rape than non-rape victims, and they are 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to attempt suicide. In fact, 1 in 3 rape victims report seriously contemplating suicide.

There are warning signs of suicide that loved ones should look out for when supporting sexual assault survivors. You should be concerned if your loved one expresses feeling like a burden to others, feeling trapped, having no reason to live, or thinking about killing themselves. You also should be concerned if they increase their use of drugs or alcohol, participate in reckless behavior, withdraw from activities, sleep too much or too little, tell people goodbye, or becomes aggressive. If they are depressed, irritable, anxious, humiliated, or lose interest in friends, hobbies, and other activities that used to bring them joy, you should be concerned.

If you fear that your loved one is having thoughts of suicide, get help for them right away. Options include our 24-Hour Help Line (919-967-7273) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255).

  1. Be aware of the increased risk of substance abuse.

Sexual assault victims also are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than those who are not victims. In fact, rape survivors are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. They may look to drugs and alcohol in hopes that self-medicating will ease PTSD, depression, and anxiety. If you fear that your loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, you can help them seek treatment.

Steve Johnson is a guest blogger who co-created as part of a school project. He and a fellow pre-med student enjoyed working on the site so much that they decided to keep it going. Their goal is to make one of the go-to sources for health and medical information on the web.

Join the Auction Committee!

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Each year, hundreds of our supporters gather together at our annual Holiday Auction to celebrate the help, hope, and healing that the Center offers to our community. This is our largest event of the year and it provides crucial funding to ensure that our services remain free and confidential for those who need them.

The Auction Committee is comprised of dedicated volunteers who seek to support the Center in a unique way. Their energy and hard work raises $100,000 for the Center each year!

We are excited to welcome:


We are still looking for more Auction Committee Members! Join us!

Meetings will be held at the Center from 6 to 7:30pm on:

  • Monday, August 22
  • Monday, September 12
  • Monday, October 3
  • Monday, October 17
  • Monday, November 7

If you think you could be a great addition to our team or if you have someone to nominate, please contact Associate Director Alyson Culin at or 919-968-4647.

Rape Jokes Are Not Funny

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Humor is an excellent tool to de-stress, to address pertinent issues, and to entertain. However, it seems comedy is often used as an excuse to insult and make ugly remarks. “Funny” doesn’t come to mind when this humor minimizes the struggles of people who have experienced something outside of their control, as in rape jokes.

Comedians have a platform — they operate in a position of power — so they can easily use the powerless as fodder for their “jokes.” Survivors of sexual violence deserve support and respect. They should not be made to feel triggered for the sake of a few laughs. This is just basic decency. So it must be said: Rape jokes are not funny.

We’ve heard all sorts of justifications for rape jokes, so let’s take a look at the most common ones:

“I have the right to free speech!”

Yes, we all do, which means that we can use our right to free speech to make or criticize a rape joke. No one is saying that someone should go to jail for their joke. We’re just saying that they morally shouldn’t say it. Everyone is well within their rights.

“It’s just a joke; people need to lighten up.”

First, rape is horribly common. One in five women and many men are victims of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Whenever a rape joke is made, there is an incredible and unfortunate likelihood that a survivor is hearing it and could be negatively affected.

Second, rape can have a severe and negative impact on survivors’ lives. Many survivors experience Rape Trauma Syndrome, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a multitude of physical, emotional, and social consequences. Rape jokes could trigger emotional distress and even flashbacks.

And even if the joke doesn’t trigger such a severe response, it certainly shows that the joker doesn’t take rape seriously. Friends who experience sexual violence may end up not trusting the joker enough to share their experiences with them.

“Comedy is about pushing boundaries. / Nothing is off-limits. / People make jokes about all sorts of terrible things, so why should rape get special treatment?”

Rape culture encompasses the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes sexual violence. Author Emilie Buchwald explains that when society normalizes sexualized violence, it accepts and creates rape culture. We see rape jokes in TV, movies, social media, video games, and so much more.

Generally speaking, when we see news about a murder, our first reaction is to acknowledge how terrible this crime was. But when we see news about rape or hear about friends’ experiences with sexual violence, our first reaction is to question and blame the victim.

It’s important to recognize the context of our jokes. Because we live in a rape culture, a joke at the expense of a rape victim feeds into that normalization and victim blaming. This makes it different than say, a joke about murder, which in general doesn’t normalize homicide or the victim blaming of homicide victims.

“Come on, of course I don’t really mean it.”

In his research, David Lisak identified “undetected” rapists – those who are not reported or prosecuted – and asserted that these represent the vast majority of rapists and account for the vast majority of rapes. Furthermore, these undetected rapists commit rape or sexual assault but do not label those acts as such, nor do they think of themselves as rapists. They often go undetected because they are not perceived as dangerous in the conventional sense.

So considering this, we never know if the guy cracking a rape joke really means it as “just a joke” or if he’s one of these undetected rapists who thinks he isn’t doing anything wrong while he sexually assaults someone. We never know if the guy cracking a rape joke is actually dangerous or not.

And if the joker actually does fall into the “just a joke” category, there is a possibility that an undetected rapist hears the joke and feels validated in his atrocious criminal behavior.

Lisak’s research found that undetected rapists:
• “hold stereotyped beliefs about the ‘proper’ roles for women and men in society.”
• “harbor chronic, underlying feelings of anger and hostility toward women.”
• exist in “’sexually violent subcultures’ – such as fraternities and gangs – that “both reflect the rapist’s views… and also help to shape them.”
• “see themselves as hyper-masculine” and react to women’s resistance to his coercive sexual pressure with “anger and aggression.”

Most rapists hold these beliefs and aren’t challenged on them but are instead encouraged by our rape culture to be hyper-masculine and view women as sexual conquests who are lying or who secretly want to be raped. In this context, a rape joke or a joke about women’s “proper” roles reinforce these ideas and lend cover to rapists and their actions.

Not only do rape jokes offend survivors and their allies, they validate rapists in their behavior and thinking. With a large number of rape victims (1 in 5 women) and a large number of rapists (1 in 16 men) in our society, there is a strong likelihood that you have at some point interacted with someone who has committed or experienced sexual violence. And in that interaction, perhaps a rape joke was told. People may have laughed; some may have not said anything. But appreciation or silence in the face of a rape joke condones rapists’ behavior.

So today, tell a cheesy joke or entertain yourself a stand-up special, but please have the decency to stop rape jokes in their tracks – because rape jokes are not funny.

Lahari Pullakhandam is a new volunteer at the Center, assisting with office administration and program preparation. She is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in Nutrition and minoring in Computer Science.  

Alyson Culin is our Associate Director. She supports the Center through fundraising, communications, and outreach efforts.

The Empowerment Model

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Contrary to rape culture and social norms that suggest sexual violence is rooted in sexual desire, lust, or uncontrollable biological urges, rape is a crime deeply embedded in power and control. When a perpetrator commits an act of sexual violence against another person, they deny that person the ability to exert control over their own body, the power to enforce their own boundaries, and the basic necessity of maintaining a sense of safety and well-being.

When a survivor discloses an experience of sexual violence to friends or family, the person hearing the disclosure may respond by trying to fix the situation. That could include things like insisting on going to the hospital, filing a report with the police, moving to a different location, or one of many other actions that prescribe a specific avenue of healing and recovery. Although this response comes from a place of good intentions, these actions often increase the feeling that the survivor has no control over their own life.

Rather than having yet another person impose their will, their concerns, and their priorities on the survivor, it is more beneficial to start from a place of empowerment.

Empowerment means helping the survivor reestablish a sense of control and agency. This may happen by allowing the survivor to recognize their own strengths and capabilities (instead of insisting that they are strong for having gone through something so horrific), helping them find the information necessary to make their own decisions (instead of making decisions without consulting them or against their wishes), and allowing them to take actions they feel comfortable with (instead of pressuring them to do things they don’t want to do).

When we don’t empower survivors to make their own choices within their personal healing process, it can feel re-traumatizing because the survivor is again in a situation beyond their control. Responding from a place of empowerment, however, restores control to the survivor and allows recovery to happen at a pace that feels comfortable.

Read more

Cupcakes & Cocktails 2016: Meet the Judges

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We are excited to announce the panel of judges for this year’s competition at Cupcakes & Cocktails! These judges will sample the creative cupcakes each contestant has concocted and choose the winner.

GeorgeGeorge Ciancolo
Chapel Hill Town Council

George and his wife Cresha have called Chapel Hill their home since 1989. George is currently an Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Pathology at Duke University. Over the last 14 years, Dr. Cianciolo has served on and chaired several Chapel Hill Town advisory boards. He also co-chaired the Chapel Hill 2020 process for preparing a new Town Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted by the Chapel Hill Town Council in June 2012. George served as the President of the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation from 2009-2013, currently serves on both the Library Foundation Board as well as the Board of Directors of the Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitors Bureau, and in 2013 he was elected to a 4-year term on the Chapel Hill Town Council.

ShannonShannon Reisdorf
2015 Best Cupcake Winner

Shannon Reisdorf was the 2015 Cupcakes & Cocktails Champion. She was born and raised in Western New York, where her love of baking began while helping her dad make cookies. She worked in a small-town bakery during high school and college, where her favorite things to make were pies and pastries. Today she works at UNC, but still loves to bake for friends and family. She lives in Durham with her wife, cat, and three dogs. Shannon is excited to be a judge this year and is looking forward to seeing what all the other bakers have created!

AmyAmy Tornquist
Watts Grocery 

Chef Amy Tornquist has been recognized nationally for her North Carolina cuisine, first at her own Sage & Swift Gourmet Catering Company, then the Nasher Museum Café. Now, she is pleased to offer her distinctive cooking at her own Watts Grocery. Amy’s locally spun seasonal dishes have been treasured by fans for years and received rave reviews in Food & WineCountry Home, and Elegant Bride. Her menu at Watts Grocery offers a mix of classic favorites and Carolina tradition, all defined by what’s grown locally and seasonally.

AlAl Bowers
Al’s Burger Shack

Al’s Burger Shack was born out of Al Bowers’ dream to serve good food and to make people happy. In 2013, Al left Merritt’s Store & Grill to open his very own restaurant.

Since it’s opening, Al’s Burger Shack has won awards for Best New Restaurant, Best Burger in the South, and Top 5 Burgers of All Time. Al can almost always be spotted behind the counter cooking up food or conversing with his customers.

RuthRuth Gierisch
Indy Week

Ruth Gierisch is the Advertising Director at INDY Week – a company she’s been with since June of 2000. Ruth and her partner share their North Durham home with their fur babies: Tank, Little, and Jesse. Her favorite things include baked goods, gardening, animals big and small, running, and making people laugh.

Trauma-Informed Running

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Trauma-informed care is a perspective that takes into consideration the impact of trauma and the myriad trauma responses when providing services. We have seen increasing attention to providing trauma-informed care in the fields of medical and mental health services, but we have also received requests for trauma-informed dental check-ups, moving companies, and many other services. That makes sense because trauma impacts all areas of life. I recently discovered that this also applies to marathon training.

I am a runner. My running journey began almost 10 years ago when the rape crisis center at which I volunteered held an annual 5k fundraiser race. 5ks led to 10ks, which led to half marathons, and eventually marathons. My dream was to one day make it to the Boston Marathon, and through dedication and hard work, I got there. I ran the 2016 Boston Marathon, using the race as a way to turn my passion into a fundraiser in support of OCRCC, again uniting my interest in running and interest in working to end sexual violence.

I am also a social worker. In my role at the Center, I regularly work with clients who have experienced sexual violence. I bear witness to stories of personal healing, tumultuous relationships, bureaucratic response systems, and social norms that allocate blame and judgment where they don’t belong. I love what I do, but sometimes this work can be hard.

Although I had run marathons before, and although I was beyond ecstatic about running the Boston Marathon, I found it nearly impossible to train for the race. Based on what I know of marathon training and what I know of trauma, it seems to me that the physical demand of training was more difficult because of the emotional toll of my work. Read more

Fighting Revenge Porn

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How to Fight Back When Your Sexual Privacy is Compromised Online

screen-shot-2015-02-28-at-8-24-06-amFinally, some good news for people who have been (or who have been anxious about becoming) victims of revenge porn! December 2015 marked the first time that a law specifically referencing and criminalizing revenge porn has been on the books in North Carolina. This addition to our legal system was added after an alarming case of privacy infringement occurred at Hough High School in Cornelius, NC. Authorities say that dozens of students had been blackmailed, and nearly a hundred nude photos were released.

Despite the law’s origins, it doesn’t only apply in cases related to minors. Breaking this law now constitutes as a felony offense, and is defined as “releasing explicit photos or videos of a person without their consent, with intent to harass, extort, or intimidate.” North Carolina is now one of twenty-six states with revenge porn laws, up from a mere sixteen at the start of 2014. We are also one of only six states that classify the non-consensual distribution of explicit materials as a felony. In most states, it is only classified as a misdemeanor (often jumping to a felony for a repeat offender).

Luckily, it’s not only lawmakers who are starting to see the need for these restrictions and ramifications. In the summer of 2014, Microsoft (including Bing, OneDrive, and Xbox Live) and Google created sites specifically dedicated to the anonymous reporting of revenge porn. Many other companies followed their lead during the rest of 2015, and have included privacy and harassment clauses in their community guidelines, as well as created anonymous reporting forms. Participating sites now include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pornhub, and Tumblr. This commitment, by some of the largest search engines and social media sites in use today, helps to combat one of the biggest issues that face victims of revenge porn: the daunting and near-impossible task of removing their stolen images from the Web.

By using the links and forms outlined by C. A. Goldberg PLLC, that focuses on Internet privacy and abuse, domestic violence, and sexual consent, victims can anonymously report images that have been posted without their consent. While these companies don’t have the ability to remove images from the Internet entirely, this new reporting system does render reported images unsearchable on their specific sites and search engines, giving some privacy and control back to victims. Read more

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